Seymour Sarason once wrote that “we live in a test-conscious, test-giving culture in which the lives of people are in part determined by their test performance” (1959, p. 26). Taking tests are a large part of a child’s experience in school and serve many purposes. Tests range from the high-stakes context of yearly standardized testing mandated by the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB; U.S. Congress, 2002) to a variety of classroom tests which serve to monitor student progress as well as drive teacher instructional practices (Salend, 2009).
Student test results hold critical implications for all people within the community. For students, their tests scores are used to make important ...view middle of the document...
Furthermore, cases of test anxiety often go unrecognized and untreated in schools (Weems, Scott, Taylor, Cannon, Romano, Perry, & Triplett, 2010), which contributes to student underachievement, decreased emotional and behavioral well-being, and a diminishing attitude towards schools (Cizek and Burg, 2006; Huberty, 2009).
This paper examines the cognitive, behavioral, and affective components of test anxiety and how each affects student academic achievement and mental health functioning. Using the Response to Intervention model (RTI; Doll & Cummings, 2008), several evidence-based strategies and interventions applicable to a continuum of students are suggested. The RTI model guides the provision of school services based on the severity of student need and is organized according to three specific tiers consisting of universal approaches, targeted interventions, and intense interventions (Doll & Cummings, 2008). Strategies and interventions applicable for each of these tiers is included.
State Anxiety vs. Trait Anxiety
Phenomenology of Test Anxiety
Over the last fifty years, models of test anxiety continue to shift and differ in conceptualization (Lowe, Lee, Witteborg, et al., 2008). While researchers in the field agree that the construct of test anxiety is complex and multidimensional (Zeidner, 1998; Benson, 1998), there is still no agreement to the exact components involved (Zeidner, 1998). However, researchers have found it useful to make a distinction among the affective, cognitive, and behavioral components of test anxiety (Zeidner, 1998). According to Zeidner (1998), test-anxious students may experience all, some, or none of these components depending upon the test situation.
Affective. This domain consists of two parts: the actual physiological reactions and how the test-anxious individual perceives these reactions (Ziedner, 1998). The latter is referred to as emotionality (Liebert and Morris, 1967).
When a student is preparing for or is in the process of taking a test, physiological hyperarousal creates physical symptoms such as sweaty palms, increased heart rate, shallow and rapid breathing (Beidel, 1998). Other physical symptoms that are associated with test anxiety include excessive perspiration, unexplained headaches or stomachaches, nausea, shaking body parts, dizziness and lightheadedness, muscle tension, tics, flushed skin color, and difficulty sleeping, eating, or using the bathroom before tests (Cassady, 2010; Cizek & Burg, 2006; Dorland, 2009; Heiman & Precel, 2003; Huberty, 2009).
Emotionality refers to how these somatic symptoms are interpreted by an individual and is considered a subjective response (Schwarzer, 1984 Cassady/Johnson 2004 article). Although emotionality is considered a dimension of test anxiety, research indicates that high emotionality is only associated with lower test performance when an individual is also experiencing a high levels of the cognitive construct of worry (Schwarzer, 1984).